Thomas Wolfe often bounced between periods of energetic creativity and boundless enthusiasm to periods of morbid self-pity, un-productivity, and depression. At one point while working prodigiously on his writings, he experienced morbid melancholia. At that time he was traveling in Europe, separated from his wife, when he wrote:
Today has been a horrible one. I was able to sleep only the most diseased and distressed sleep, the worst sort of American in Europe sleep and I got sick with the shakes, the day was the most horrible European sort, something that passes understanding. The wet, heavy air that deadens the soul, puts a lump of indigestible lead in the solar plexus, depresses and fatigues the flesh until one seems to lift himself leadenly through the thick, wet, steaming air. With this terrible kind of fear, an excitement that is without hope, that awaits only the news of some further grief, failure or humiliation and torture. A lassitude that enters the soul and makes one hope for better things and better work tomorrow but hope without belief and conviction.
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In his column today, George Will argues against the therapeutic society, suggesting that the DSM-IV, about to be revised, “may aggravate the confusion of moral categories.” For example: “Today’s DSM defines ‘oppositional defiant disorder’ as a pattern of ‘negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures.’ Symptoms include ‘often loses temper,’ ‘often deliberately annoys people’ or ‘is often touchy.’ DSM omits this symptom: ‘is a teenager.’”
By and large, I agree with his overall argument. However, after having adopted two older, special needs kids ten years ago, I also know that there is such as thing a personality disorders. It is an endless source of frustration to try and talk to anyone about the trials and difficulties of raising a child with attachment disorder or borderline personality disorder. The basic response one gets is “Oh, A normal teenager.”
If only. I also have three biological children, all different, all typical, all currently teens as well. There is no way to really describe the differences without disclosing private information one rarely shares. Knowing George Will has a son with Down’s Syndrome, I am surprised—though much less than I would have been years ago—that he seems so unopened to the distinctions.
I have fought for years, advocated and suffered, trying to keep the psychological profession from doping my kids up to control them. I have seen how social workers, teachers, psychologist and psychiatrist all leap to conclusions with little data, aren’t interested in the knowledge that only parents can provide, and seek to jump to the easy DSM-IV diagnosis. It makes getting insurance payments much easier, after all.
But still…well, I guess you’d have to live it. ODD is real, and it’s not teenage rebellion. It’s like calling suicidal tendencies the blues.